Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette said Thursday he will retire from football, citing a life-threatening neck injury that he doesn't expect to heal.
"I love my family, and I'd rather walk," Lockette said at a news conference, surrounded by family members.
Lockette, 29, took a heavy hit on Nov. 1 from Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath during a punt return. The tackle left him lying on the field for several minutes before he was carried off on a stretcher.
Lockette sustained a concussion, along with damage to discs and ligaments in his back, effectively disconnecting his skull from his spinal column. Surgeons implanted titanium plates to help reconnect the skeletal structure. The procedure left him with only 50 percent rotation in his neck.
Doctors "said if I would have stood up then, the weight of my head -- left, right, front, back -- I would have died," Lockette said. "If one of my teammates would have come over and pulled my arm, just barely, I might have died. Or if the returner at the time would have broken a couple tackles, and they would have rolled and fell on me, I would have died on that field."
Lockette said Thursday he had put to rest his hopes of returning to the game.
"There's a lot of things that I can't do, but what I can do is inspire and motivate,” Lockette said. "That's what I will do. I will inspire someone and motivate them to be great in a time of need, as well as my family did."
He said he blames neither his tackler nor the game.
"People say, 'Hey dude, are you sad that this happened to you and that the guy hit you and blah, blah, blah?' No, because I'm a dog. And you live by the sword and you die by the sword. So I can't complain about that.
"It's not a sad day for me,” Lockette continued. “Life goes on. I never really wanted to be an Olympic track star or an NFL player -- I just wanted to be great. I wanted to be great at something. I wanted to make my family proud. Hopefully, I've done that."
He said he plans to work on behalf of the homeless, domestic violence victims and kids.
A native of Albany, Georgia, Lockette played in 34 games over five NFL seasons for Seattle. He recorded 22 catches, 451 yards and four touchdowns, and helped the team to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Lockette joins a growing list of NFL players leaving the game due to injuries or the risk. In April, New York Jets standout D'Brickashaw Ferguson announced his retirement, writing, "If we know the risks, then why do we still play?"
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